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Aids a problem for African democracies

19th March 2008

By: Sapa

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Aids is having a politically costly effect on a number of fledgling democracies in Africa, according to a new Idasa study. "There are a number of worrying revelations in this study," Kondwani Chirambo, editor of the study, said on Tuesday.

"The large number of younger voters who have died; the rising deaths among MPs and the loss of representation attributed to these death; the impact on small or under-resourced opposition parties and theimplications for democratic accountability."

The study, titled The Political Costs of Aids in Africa, found that in Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, deaths from undisclosed diseases among MPs below the age of 55 was the main cause of vacancies in national parliaments in the past 15 years. These trends were not evident in countries with less severe epidemics such as Senegal.

Idasa said in a news release on the study that 23 South African MPs had died in office of various causes since 1994.

"Not a single elected representative has been known to live with or die of HIV/Aids despite that this mortality profile seems to mimic the pandemic's effects," it said.

Because the number of deaths of MPs in the countries covered by the study had escalated, organisational and financial restraints often meant those positions remained vacant for longer than usual."A viable option would be to simply allow political parties to replace the deceased through appointment," Idasa said.

The death of experienced MPs opened the door to less experienced replacements, possibly affecting the quality of service delivery.

There were also difficulties in maintaining voter registers when too many voters died. "Aids is a much bigger problem than simply a health crisis," said
Chirambo.

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